Athletics: Hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad strides towards KL SEA Games

Hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad posing with coach Luis Cunha after she met the qualifying mark for this year's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. She won the 400m hurdles gold in 1min 1.21sec at the Queensland Athletics Championships yesterday.
Hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad posing with coach Luis Cunha after she met the qualifying mark for this year's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. She won the 400m hurdles gold in 1min 1.21sec at the Queensland Athletics Championships yesterday.PHOTO: COURTESY OF DIPNA LIM-PRASAD

Going into her race at the Queensland Athletics Championships yesterday, Dipna Lim-Prasad had many reasons to doubt herself.

Training has been erratic and felt unsatisfactory, she was going to be running into "insane" head wind at the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre and more critically, she had not raced a hurdles event for close to two years.

The 400m hurdles event yesterday ended with the Singaporean cradling a gold medal, as well as a ticket to this year's SEA Games. Her time of 1min 1.21sec was just under the qualifying mark of 1:01.69, benchmarked against the bronze- winning time of the last Games.

It was a far cry from the 25-year-old's national record of 59.24sec - also her last hurdles race - set on home soil when she strode to silver at the SEA Games in 2015.

She has been hampered with an ankle injury since and also came down with a respiratory tract infection early this month that led her to "full on panic".

So as much as she had hoped for a better time, Lim-Prasad took heart that the main goal of her three-week sojourn in Australia - qualifying for the Aug 19-31 Kuala Lumpur Games - had been accomplished at the first of three meets.

She told The Straits Times from Brisbane: "Leading up to this race, even in training, I was shuffling through all my hurdles... just super inconsistent and not a good sign.

"Even in training, I was knocking down so many hurdles."

Said her coach Luis Cunha: "The goal was for Dipna was to qualify - she did that, and she won the event too - but I definitely expect much more from her leading up to the SEA Games."

The Portuguese took personal time off from his job as principal of ActiveSG's Athletics Club to see his charge through her race.

Lim-Prasad is pencilled in for the 400m today. She is also slated to participate at the Australian national championships at the end of next month.

The competitive athlete in her is already raising the bar for herself, but she is, for now, focusing on a creditable result.

She said: "I can already feel myself thinking about wanting to 'smash' the next race, but I'm just going to try to think about the realistic, the constructive and the positive."

Lim-Prasad joins six other team-mates who have met the mark for the biennial Games, including defending champions Shanti Pereira (200m) and Zhang Guirong (shot put).

Singapore Athletics will field up to two athletes for each event, and their selection for the SEA Games is subject to approval by the Singapore National Olympic Council.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2017, with the headline 'Dipna strides towards SEA Games'. Print Edition | Subscribe